The statistics on the incidence of Down syndrome is quite staggering.
According to the World Health Organization( WHO), the estimated incidence of Down Syndrome is between 1 in 1,000 to 1 in 1,100 live births worldwide.
Yet, awareness is limited.
The Dubai Health Authority (DHA), through its smart clinic, raised awareness about Down syndrome and attempted to educate the community about the importance of early intervention and integration in society.
Down Syndrome is a chromosomal condition which affects physical and mental development. It is caused by the presence of an extra chromosome.
“Awareness about Down Syndrome and early intervention is very important to help children with Down syndrome develop gross, motor, language, cognitive and other skills to the best of their abilities. For example, appropriate physical therapy may assist a baby with Down Syndrome, who may have low muscle tone, to learn to get head control and sit up,” said Dr Farah Al Shawa, pediatrician at Dubai Hospital.
“Moreover, early intervention also important to screen for other diseases because children with Down Syndrome are more prone to developing certain diseases and therefore we follow a strict multi-disciplinary approach to make sure these babies are seen by a team of specialties.”
According to WHO, 60 to 80 percent of children with Down Syndrome have hearing deficits. Forty to 45 percent of children have congenital heart disease. Intestinal abnormalities also occur at a higher frequency in children. They have more eye problems than other children who do not have this chromosome disorder.
Another concern relates to nutritional aspects and obesity is often noted during adolescence and early adulthood. These conditions can be prevented by providing appropriate nutritional counselling and anticipatory dietary guidance.
Al Shawa added that through early intervention, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy; infants and children with down syndrome can be prepared to enter mainstream schools.
“It is important for the parents, caregivers and the community members to understand that many children with this condition have an IQ of 70. The aim is through early intervention and continuous, integrated and coordinated forms of therapy, we should be able to integrate as many people with Down Syndrome into mainstream schools.
“We should also aim to nurture their skills in a manner that they are capable of getting a job in adulthood. Some of them are more academically inclined while some of them are more creative. Teachers and caregivers should be able to identify their strengths and guide them so that they can lead the best quality of life possible and they should be as independent as possible.”
DHA and the UAE Down Syndrome association are working together to provide support and guidance to parents of children with Down Syndrome.
Those interested to volunteer can call UAE Down Syndrome Association at 04-3444471 or alternatively e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org